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Fondue feast

(article, Kim Carlson)

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You don't need to be Swiss to enjoy a fondue feast. (Nor do you have to be an American ski bum of the 1960s, although wouldn't that be fun?) If you're Matthew Amster-Burton, you don't need fondue forks or even a designated pot, but having the accoutrements does make it a party.

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Here's our fondue how-to, as taught to us by our Swiss friend, Cornelia Lewis, who also happens to rent us space for our office. We thank her for the space, the recipe, and her fondue know-how — and also for the use of her authentic Swiss fondue pot, as seen in the photos below.

Don't have an authentic Swiss fondue pot? We often use a [%amazonProductLink "Chantal fondue pot" asin=B00004VXBU], which looks great and works well enough, although you've got to melt the cheese on the stovetop first, then transfer it into the Chantal.

If you encounter problems, check out Cornelia's troubleshooting tips:

 Fondue too thick and cheesy? Increase the flame on the table burner and whisk in some white wine. 
 Fondue too thin? Increase the flame and dissolve a little cornstarch in wine or Kirsch and stir it into the cheese. 
 Fondue separated? Dissolve a tablespoon of cornstarch in wine; return it to the stovetop over medium heat and stir. Adding a few drops of lemon juice will help, too.
 Sticky cheese on your empty fondue pot? Wash it in cold water; the cheese will come off faster.

Once you've got a pot, forks, and a burner — plus party guests — you're ready to get cooking. 

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#(clear). [%image ingredients float='clear right' width=350] Assemble your ingredients. For each person, you'll want 5 to 7 ounces of cheese: a third each of Gruyère, Emmenthaler, and Fontina, plus a small knob of Gorgonzola for flavor. You'll also need white wine, Kirsch, garlic, pepper, nutmeg, and cornstarch (of which you'll use only a tablespoon or two). 

#(clear). [%image cheeses float='clear right' width=350] Grate the cheeses. Cutting the softer ones into cubes may be easier than grating and is just fine.

#(clear). [%image garlic float='clear right' width=350] Rub garlic in the pot. Cut a clove of garlic in half lengthwise and rub the cut sides over the inside surface of your fondue pot. You just want the essence of garlic, not the whole clove.

#(clear). [%image "dissolved cornstarch" float='clear right' width=350] Dissolve the cornstarch. Whisk a tablespoon of cornstarch into a few tablespoons of wine. Set aside.

#(clear). [%image bread float='clear right' width=350] Cube the bread. Crusty baguettes are best. Ideally, each cube should have a bit of crust on it for body, so that it doesn't just dissolve when it hits the hot cheese.

#(clear). [%image "cheese in pot" float='clear right' width=350] Make the fondue. Place the fondue pot (or your saucepan) on the stove over medium heat. Combine the cheese, wine, and dissolved cornstarch in the pot, and stir to combine.

#(clear). [%image stirring float='clear right' width=350] Melt it, baby. Continue stirring in a figure 8, until all the cheese is melted. 

#(clear). [%image nutmeg float='clear right' width=350] Season to taste. Once your cheese has melted, add the Kirsch, a grating of nutmeg, and a grind of pepper.

#(clear). [%image "finished fondue" float='clear right' width=350] Serve. Light the tabletop burner and place the pot of fondue on top. Spear bread cubes on the ends of your fondue forks, then swirl the cubes into the fondue. As Cornelia says, "Stirring is the most important activity — besides eating."

#(clear). [%image eating float='clear right' width=350] Eat the crust. Once you've eaten all the cheese, there should be a crusty layer on the bottom of the pan. Remove it before it becomes dark and bitter; it's a delicacy, and you should eat it immediately.

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p(clear blue). Head over to the recipe Chocolate Midnight Fondue, where we're giving away copies of Peggy Fallon's book, Great Party Fondues.


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